In most small towns and villages in Punjab, women are barely allowed out of their homes. In sharp contrast, the village of Chakar, Ludhiana is home to a training academy for young female boxers.
Punjabis are known for their boistrous energy, and fighting is not uncommon in the heartland. In this village, that energy has been turned into something positive. With regular exercises, morning runs, training for speed and skill, this village hopes to groom some of India's best female athletes.
Outside the metros and beyond the urban jungle live the sons and daughters of India’s heartland.
With every knockout blow in the boxing ring, the young pugilist women from Chakar village are knocking out the gender stereotypes and prejudices. Though the patriarchal culture enjoins women to be submissive, yielding and graceful, these young boxers are busy cultivating the qualities of toughness, courage, endurance and steely resolve.
Following a rigorous routine, these women train regularly at the Sher-e-Punjab Sports Academy at Chakar village. Their day starts at 6.30 am, with two hours of intensive practice in the morning and in the evening.
“Workouts, gym training, circuit training, sparring — all are part of our training sessions,” says Kirandeep Kaur, who started training for boxing six years ago. Arshpreet, who is a Class VII student, started her training when she was in Class IV.
The journey of the young boxers from shy, unsure girls to focused players and confident women is almost parallel to that of Chakar. From a village known for all the wrong reasons, including land-related fights and petty squabbles, Chakar has transformed itself into a village that finds a pride of place on the national and even international map, thanks to the achievements of the players from the village.
“At least four women players from the village have bagged positions in international championships. Simranjeet Kaur won the bronze medal in the World Boxing Championship held at Delhi in 2018. Mandeep Kaur bagged gold in Junior World Boxing Championship held in China in 2015.
In 2016, she was declared the ‘Best Boxer’ of Asia in the junior category. Our boxers Harpreet Kaur and Shivinder Kaur have participated successfully in international competitions,” says boxing coach Khushdeepak Kumar, with a tinge of rightful pride.
The girls from this village give the credit for “transforming” their lives to the Sher-e-Punjab Sports Academy established in 2006 by NRI brothers Ajmer Singh Sidhu and Baldev Singh Sidhu, he adds.
Training for boxing has been a “life-changing experience” for the women of Chakar. “I now feel confident enough to handle the situations that would earlier make me nervous and anxious. My family too is comfortable about my going out alone,” says Kirandeep Kaur.
A whole world of opportunities has opened up for the girls who were hitherto confined within the village boundary, according to Mandeep, who has travelled abroad for sports competitions. She signs off with Muhammad Ali’s quote: “He who is not courageous to take risk will accomplish nothing in life!”